Beginning in the upcoming school year, any Waterloo High School student who participates in a co-curricular who is failing a class as of the mid-term could see their eligibility to compete or perform impacted.
A new rule has been added to the high school co-curricular handbook, which covers sports and other clubs, per a unanimous vote at the July 12 school board meeting. Academic eligibility will now be determined at the end of each term and during the mid-term.
“As a coach, when you get a list of kids in the middle of your season that are not doing well in school and you really have no power to try to enforce that they’re students first and athletes second, it’s kind of tough to take,” said Athletic Director and head football coach Dave Frisell. “There have been times during my football season when I’ve had 10 to 12 kids that are on this list at mid-terms that are failing multiple classes. And I’ve been told that I can’t do anything to those kids because it’s not in our handbook. The only time that we can restrict eligibility is when the grades come out at the end of the quarter.”
Frisell said as the athletic director, teachers have told him they are frustrated with students “that don’t do anything for the first half of the term and then scramble as hard as they can scramble to make up that work so they’re eligible starting the next term.”
Frisell said it is pretty shocking to see the number of students who are on the academic status list as of mid-terms. According to him, there are many teens that have stellar grades at the end of the quarter, which had previously been the only time when academic eligibility was determined.
“They know the system and don’t do a whole heck of a lot in the beginning and they know after mid-terms they better kick it into gear,” the athletic director said. “I think there are plenty of kids out there that could be doing C work or B work that are doing D work because they know that’s all they have to do to get by.”
Frisell said this new addition to the handbook is not completely punitive toward students, it allows them to remedy their grades before their participation in the sport or club is impacted. At the same time, the athletic director said it gives the coaches the chance to get students to do class work before the midway point of the term.
For example, if the mid-term grade list comes out in the fourth week of the term and student has a grade of F, the youth would get an academic status report. The student would then have two weeks to improve their grade in the class they are failing. Two weeks after that initial report, if the student were still listed as having a grade of F on the academic status report, that individual would have to sit out of competitions or performances until the grade improves.
“Will there be a time when maybe there will be a difficult conversation? Yes, but that’s going to fall on Mr. Frisell and myself to not allow that to happen with our teachers and for us to have those conversations with those kids,” said high school Principal Shawn Bartelt.
Board member Charlie Crave said a lot of responsibility also has to fall on the students to make sure they follow the requirements.
“You’ve got guidebooks, you’ve got teachers who care – pull it together and get the job done,” he said.
“We’re hoping the kids will rescue their grades by week six and continue for two more weeks to continue to keep their grades up,” Frisell said. “I think this is a good first step.”